I was filming my sons engaging in a science experiment they had learnt about on Play School – mixing bicarb soda and hair conditioner to make snow – when I realised very quickly that this was not something I would be sharing on social media. The twins shovelling handfuls of bicarb-conditioner-mess into their mouths while my eldest complained about the mess it made on his hands and tried to remember if the recipe also needed four cups of water…it all ended with me hurriedly cleaning up the mess and diverting them into other outdoor activities while I hung up the washing. I then caught a glimpse of some recently opened peach blossoms and paused to try capturing it on my phone, while one of the twins clung to my legs, demanding cuddles, and the eldest started rummaging in the garden bed. I could share the peach blossoms online, but what picture would this give of my life, compared with the reality?
I am torn sometimes by the question of what to share and what not to share. At any given moment most of my country is in some form of lockdown, with its two biggest cities, including my own, being stuck in strict, extended lockdowns that seem not to be ending any time soon. Sharing moments of beauty and reprieve seems to be often important to do, both for ourselves and for others. Yet there are also those who need to hear the real life stories – the kids screaming, the flatness, the struggle to be motivated, to parent well, to work. These also need sharing. And sometimes we also just need to let off steam, and that can be okay too.
But does the world need to hear me let off steam? Not really. I have friends and a wife who will graciously listen, and a God I can always turn to in prayer. I do not need to make others hear my frustrations, not for my sake alone. Nor are my meltdowns more real than my rejoicing. I was genuinely in awe of the peach blossoms this afternoon, and genuinely exploding in my eyes and nose for the rest of the evening with allergies from all the pollens and the dust mites that we unsettled with cleaning. As Taylor Swift would say, “Both of these things can be true.” It is difficult to know which side of reality most needs sharing at the time.
Here’s a question I am trying to ask myself, not always successfully: which is the most loving thing to share right now? Sometimes sharing a cute picture of the kids is loving, sometimes it is loving to share a struggle, sometimes to share both. Sometimes it helps others feel more normal to know that I struggle. Sometimes people just want to see something beautiful, and that’s okay too. Sometimes people need their eyes lifted beyond their struggles, sometimes they need to see where God is working in the midst of it. Sometimes they need distraction, sometimes a cry. But the key is that I should seek to be loving. If I am sharing something beyond my close friends or family, it needs to be about more than just me. The world doesn’t need more of me, but it certainly needs more of God, and it certainly needs more beauty and love.
So here is how I am trying to keep it real. Here is a photo of a peach blossom in my garden that would look so much more beautiful if you could come to visit my garden and see for yourself. It was beautiful, and the sun in the afternoon was glorious, and I sneezed and struggled to keep my children occupied and God is good, all the time.